FSF Watch: SFLC Lawyers Sue Verizon

This is the fourth shakedown lawsuit filed by FSF lawyers on behalf of BusyBox. As is the case in at least one previous case (last week?), the BusyBox (busybox-0.61.pre) source code is already available from the manufacturer of the device.

At what point do the advocates open their eyes and realize the FSF is no less onerous than any company writing proprietary code? The SFLC isn’t about software, it’s about lawsuits. This is how they put bread on their tables: by suing everyone they think has violated a dot or tittle of their precious GPL. They’re no different from lawyers from any other group, including Microsoft, Apple, or RIAA. The main difference is the latter three don’t come across as trigger happy as the FSF does.

BusyBox developers FSF LAWYERS go after SHAKEDOWN Verizon:

NEW YORK, December 7, 2007 — The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) today announced that it has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Verizon Communications, Inc. on behalf of its clients, two principal developers of BusyBox, alleging violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL). BusyBox is a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems and is open source software licensed under GPL version 2.

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4 Responses to “FSF Watch: SFLC Lawyers Sue Verizon”

  1. bbbmx Says:

    My opinion is thath if the FSF wasn’t onerous, the GLP violations would increase.

  2. lucky Says:

    My opinion is that if the GPL weren’t so bloody restrictive, companies would adopt open source software. The irony is, your position is the same employed by proprietary software companies — Microsoft and FSF are two sides of the same coin. Moral to the story: if you like lawyers and enjoy restricting what users and distributors can do, use blobs or slap the GPL on it. Either way, your bases are covered.

  3. bbbmx Says:

    I wonder what would happen if nobody attach importance about GLP violations, the end of the story could be the loss of GPL basic freedoms. Whatever, this conflict has been solved:

    http://lwn.net/Articles/262396/

    And although the limitations of the GLP, we can look at the example of the government of India, that recently decided to migrate its systems from Windows to GNU/Linux.

    Another point is that if you don’t want to use GPL, of course you have other several options, but this is a matter of opinion, not an absolutely imposition to opt for this or that license .

  4. lucky Says:

    The GPL is about four freedoms. The first of which is restricted insofar as what users choose to do with the code, the other three are restrictions on distribution (just like proprietary software). The GPL isn’t about freedom at all. The BSD is about freedom. Use it as you see fit, no strings — just acknowledge its copyright.

    I don’t know which Indian anecdote you’re referring but it’s really not germane to this discussion because it has nothing to do with the GPL. Alas, it’s as hard to pin down which anecdote the advocates are using any given week as pinning down the real cost differences between using Windows and Linux in enterprise (no, Linux is NOT a zero cost solution — maybe in your bedroom but sure as hell not across a corporate network).

    But let’s entertain your digression anyway. Perhaps you mean the anecdote in which India made positive Linux statements as a means of extorting favor from Bill Gates (see below). Perhaps you mean the state of Goa, in which one government official staked a pro-Linux position before walking out of government (also mentioned in the following link).
    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/6389

    Maybe Kerala? Well they’re not 100% Linux, either.
    http://www.centralchronicle.com/20080827/2708303.htm

    Maybe Gujarat? I like this guy’s response: “We in Gujarat have a clear dictum for governance. The cost of Microsoft’s Windows Office Platform is around Rs 6,000 and we buy computers with pre-installed Windows, which costs around Rs 17,000, so the total amounts to Rs 23,000. Though the cost benefits are indeed there with FOSS, we still go for the Windows platform because of its compatibility with the file format, standardisation of database and after sales service provided by Microsoft…. The comparison with other states is also not justified as our computer penetration is far greater than theirs. Look at the way our State Wide Area Network (SWAN) has been functioning for years as compared to theirs… But if we get the same customer support for GNU/Linux as we get for Windows and the issues of compatibility and standardisation are resolved, then we will definitely switch over to FOSS.”
    http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Higher-Secondary-Board-to-catch-up-with-FOSS-revolution/351961/

    Hardly a ringing endorsement since that kind and level of customer support tends to come from companies like Red Hat, Novell, and local companies specializing in enterprise Linux. Microsoft’s dominance in that area, where customer service is a requirement, has NOTHING to do with monopoly but rather with having an infrastructure based on an understanding of what large businesses and government wants and/or requires. Those users don’t give a rat’s ass about GPL or the bullshit near-religious views of the Free Software Foundation. They only demand that it work easily within a certain skill level and that they have someone to call if it gets screwed up.

    Most users of open source likewise don’t give a shit about GPL. They use it because it’s free as in beer. They can work their ways around missing features, they have time to report bugs. And they have time to intentionally misspell Windows, as though that makes them good and decent people.

    Back to the issue at hand. Some companies choose to comply with GPL. For some of them, like TiVo, it doesn’t matter that they play by the rules because the rulemakers (FSF) move the goalposts and have a very anti-capitalist bias. That does nothing to increase adoption of open source but only ensures developers and innovators continue to lock down their specs and make them difficult for interoperability. The GPL, thus, is a barrier to interoperability rather than a facilitator (as BSD and MIT/X licenses are). That’s by design, because GPL was drafted by people who don’t want to play by the rules of the real world but rather seek to craft their own counterculture.

    There’s a time where something that’s counterculture gains acceptance by the mainstream, and is adopted into the mainstream in some limited measure. But not in whole. That’s where Linux and open source is today. The question isn’t how much longer it’ll take before Linux has enough momentum to damage Microsoft, it’s how long Linux/open source can be relevant before the world walks away from it. As long as Linux and open source is guided by doctrinaire extremists like Stallman, the sooner the mainstream will ditch the counterculture. Open source can have more staying power and be a bigger part of the mainstream if the barriers — including goofy restrictive licenses like GPL — aren’t too offputting.

    The success of Firefox isn’t because it’s an inherently better, safer browser than IE. Most users are still content with IE despite its shortcomings. Many users would gladly ditch Firefox if they felt IE was more secure, better, had certain features, etc. They don’t use Firefox because its source is available, they only care that it’s free as in beer. Put a price tag on it and they’ll stick with IE in greater numbers even if they think it lacks features, is insecure, etc.

    The most important point, though, is users never got on board with Firefox because of its license. Just its cost. Cost is the reason for at least 80% of open source adoption. Not license, not source, not for sets of included or missing features.

    These FSF/SFLC lawsuits do nothing to increase adoption of open source. They only give manufacturers less reason to mess with it.

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